Appealing a denial of Social Security Disability (SSD) can be a long and stressful process. There are many levels of the appeals process and after experiencing multiple denials, applicants may feel like they are out of options. However, the last step in the appeals process is the level where most disability applicants are ultimately awarded benefits. Before giving up on your case, consider appealing your denial to a Federal District Court.

How to appeal your SSD case to Federal Court

Once you receive a denial from the Appeals Council, you have 60 days to appeal the decision in Federal Court. This is done by filing a lawsuit in your local United States District Court. The lawsuit is initiated when you submit a Complaint with the court. This Complaint outlines the facts and allegations in your case.

Due to federal law, the case will not be able to be brought against the Social Security Administration (SSA). Instead, the lawsuit will be filed against the current Social Security commissioner. Applicants can either file a Complaint themselves or hire an experienced SSD attorney to help them with their case.

What makes for a good case in federal court such that you have a shot at winning your appeal? To learn what you need to know, watch our video.


What happens after a lawsuit is filed?

After the lawsuit is filed, the Court will issue a summons. The summons is the order that will require the SSA to show up in court for the lawsuit proceedings. You must serve the summons and a copy of the Complaint to the SSA at one of its Offices of the General Council. Find the address of your local OGC and take your summons and Complaint to the relevant location.

Once the SSA has been served, a lawyer from the SSA will file an Answer to your Complaint. The Answer generally explains why the SSA thinks it was correct to deny your claim for benefits.

Do I have to file an opening brief?

After the SSA files its Answer, you will need to file an Opening Brief. An Opening Brief explains in detail to the Court your position and why you believe you deserve to be awarded SSD benefits.

An Opening Brief is extremely important in a Federal Appeal, and a case for benefits can be won or lost on this document. This is because an Opening Brief analyzes the administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decision to deny you benefits in light of medical evidence and testimony.

The Opening Brief’s purpose is to persuade the Federal judge that the ALJ failed to properly consider the medical evidence or that the ALJ failed to follow the law in making his or her decision such that you should be awarded SSD benefits. As a result, it is very important to hire a disability attorney who is experienced in writing Federal briefs for disability benefit denials.

What happens after I file my Opening Brief?

After you file your Opening Brief, the SSA will have the opportunity to file a Response Brief. This is what the SSA uses to explain to the Court why the ALJ’s decision to deny you disability benefits was correct. Once the SSA files its Response Brief, you will have the opportunity to file a Reply Brief, which is your last chance to defend your argument that you should have been awarded disability benefits.

Sometimes after the parties have filed all the relevant briefs, the Court will request oral arguments. These are in-person arguments where each side has a chance to talk to the judge about their beliefs in the case. While the judge can require oral arguments, it is fairly rare for these arguments to be requested.

How will the federal judge decide my case?

The Federal judge will make a decision on the case based on the information he or she received in the briefs and heard in oral arguments, and then will issue his or her opinion. This process can take at least a year.

Ultimately, the judge will remand the case to a lower level of the process for reconsideration, affirm the ALJ’s decision denying you disability benefits, or reverse the ALJ’s decision and grant you disability benefits.

Should I file a Federal Appeal?

The Federal Appeals process is used by less than one percent of disability applicants. However, it has the highest rate of success for applicants in the SSD Appeals process. National statistics indicate that 40 percent of disability cases that are taken to the Federal Appeals level are eventually approved. As a result, taking your case all the way to the Federal Appeals level could be worth your time and effort.

We offer a free, initial consultation to evaluate your disability claim. Call us at 800-419-7606 to schedule a consultation.